Family style eating is actually having frequent meals with the same individual(s). It could apply to spouses or a parent and child who regularly sit down for a nice, well-balanced meal at home.
But they could apply equally well to unmarried couples or close friends who do the same. My boyfriend and me eat our dinner together every day in kind of a casual style. We usually share thoughts and experiences, our plans, and our day summary while we eat.
You don’t necessarily have to live with those people to reap the rewards of sharing family-style meals. And it doesn’t have to be every day, it can happen at least once or twice a week.
It is similar to our Sunday family gatherings at our grandparents or parents house. I miss those moments very much in my life since I live in the Netherlands, far away from my family. It is so beautiful to share the meal with the people you love.
At this kind of family style meals, the food is usually placed on the table in large serving dishes from which diners serve themselves. And it is a little bit of everything there. Soup, salads, meet or fish, vegetables, side dishes such as mashed potato or rice, fruits, and something sweet later on as a desert.
Family style meals allows you to choose whether and how much you are going to eat so there is no pressure or stress regarding that you have to eat something you don’t like, you can choose and eat what you want from the table, and add some more if you like it.
This is the way I grew up. Therefore I always encourage parents on my cooking workshops to try family-style meals and to see how their kids react.
Many families told me later on that their kids eat better and their mealtime is more relaxed and even enjoyable. That may be due to the shift in control from the parent to the child, giving the opportunity to the child to choose, diffusing the drama at the meal table.
Allow your children to serve themselves and you will see that children are going to choose almost the same things you did, because children are always trying to act like adults and to copy behavior of their older siblings.
Allow your children to develop self-help skills, social skills, empower them to make their own food choices and to create pride and ownership of the food they are eating. This will also improve their motor skills.
There is one more important thing, please don’t smoke at the dining table, especially while others are still eating. It is not polite at all. If your host allows smoking in the house, and if you like to smoke after your meal, you should get up from the dining table and go to the coffee table and enjoy your cigarette. The best thing is to go outside in the garden or on the balcony, especially when kids are around. Everyone is allowed to have their own habits as long as they don’t bother others with it.
If you would like to learn more regarding the table manners and the rules about proper dining etiquette and proper table setting and decorating, you are welcome to participate in some of my cooking workshops.
Nowadays family style dining became fashionable again. A lot of new restaurants are building their entire concepts based on family style dining and family-friendly, casual dining manners. In a lot of restaurants the guests are sitting together around one big table, like we do and enjoy at the wedding receptions and family gatherings.